This album occupies a curious place in the “Jesus Music” era in that, in a time when so many albums were self-produced or done on obscure (or not so obscure labels) that disappeared, this one is an official production of the denomination. It was commissioned by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church in collaboration with the Joint Commission on Church Music. The purpose of the album was to introduce parishes to the liturgical changes that were afoot in the church, specifically the trial liturgy published in 1966 and encouraged by the 1967 General Convention (GC 1967.) This Convention began a series of trial liturgies that would end with the publication of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This wasn’t the first time that the Episcopal Church had used the vinyl medium to promote its vision of how the Prayer Book was to be celebrated, but it heralded a new era for many Episcopalians.
And how does it come off? That depends on how you look at it. From the standpoint of the Episcopal Church, it definitely pushed things forward, to the distaste of many in the pews, just as many of the changes going on in the church did in the 1960’s and 1970’s. From the standpoint of the “Jesus Music” era, like most Episcopal productions of the era (such as The Winds of God from across the San Francisco Bay) it’s conservative. There’s the usual acoustic guitar and light percussion in the background but there’s the venerable pipe organ too. It’s the only album of the era I am familiar with that features the Thrice-Holy Hymn or Trisagion, much beloved of the Orthodox (without, I should be quick to add, the additions of Peter the Fuller which raised John of Damascus’ blood pressure so severely.) In spots it echoes albums like Leo Nestor’s Sons of the Morning (another West Coast production) but it lacks the professional musicianship evident in that production.
Today the album (with adaptations) would be a nice Mass in a Catholic parish, better than many that are in use. It’s not the kind of production that brings tears to the eyes of devotees of the “Old Folk Mass,” but it’s not bad either.
Note on the date: the album has no definite date on it, either on the cover or in the booklet that came with the album. Same booklet, however, quotes a book dated 1968 and so that’s as good of a guess as we can do. That puts it, however, with the early productions of the Episcopal student group God Unlimited, which means that, for all their good efforts, things really had left the station long before it was published.
- Brightest and Best
- Kyrie Eleison (2 versions)
- Holy God (3 versions)
- The Lord Be With You (Sunday Proper Preface)
- The Lord Be With You (Advent Proper Preface)
- As Our Savior Christ Has Taught Us, Christ Our Passover
- Alleluia, Christ Our Passover
- Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia
- Alleluia, Sing to Jesus
- The singers:
- Lo Rayne Brown
- Robert Clifton
- George Fleming
- Tom Kennedy
- Nora Laurence
- Margaret Sipple, soloist
- Peter Sipple, soloist
- Allen Grant, drums
- Normal Mealy, organ
- Robert Sisk, guitar